Saturday, June 30, 2012

California - Our first three weeks

We've settled in and 3 weeks have flown by so it's actually time to head to our next campground already.  Today, June 30th, we are heading north to the San Benito area (east of Salinas) then after a few weeks further north to Washington.

This area is beautiful and we've enjoyed our time here.  We relaxed more here than any other campground (partially due to the fact that it's not a quick easy drive to get anywhere) which is a tough thing for us (well, me mostly) but it was good.  Here are some of the highlights of things we did do...

First - the reason we came here - Live Oak Music Fesitval (Tom is a huge music buff and spotted this festival on the internet months ago and so we arrived a week before the festival).  It was the 24th annual festival and it was a great variety of different types of music, people, crafts and food.  The festival took place among the tall oak trees at Live Oak Campground just a few miles (but 30 minutes) down the road from us.  

Tom's taking a little snooze before the next show!

The main stage

He's such a happy boy!
Hiking - well of course we had to do some hiking!  Our campground is right next to the San Padres National Forest so we've taken a few hikes in the area.

The view of our campground/ranch from the trail

A little surprise!  Several months ago our dear friend Joe asked if we could meet him in Vegas when he was going for a 3 day bachelor party.  We regretfully declined (stating we'd be too far away in CA) but in the back of our minds figured we go and surprise him.  It worked and he was speechless when he saw us standing next to him in the lobby of the Luxor.  It was a quick visit but so great to see Joe, his son Matthew, the groom Chris, his dad Tom and another friend Jim.  We also got to spend a little time with "Joey Vegas" - Tom's cousin, Joe, who we appropriately nicknamed since he works at the Venetian and is a wealth of information about the area.

Joe's surprised face with Matthew on his left (a little blurry - taken on my phone while I was shaking)

Cousin Joe - aka Joey Vegas

Becky, Joe and groom-to-be, Chris

lunch with our bestest buddy (we missed you, Brenda!)

The Luxor

We spent a little time in the beautiful town of Santa Barbara and even got to meet Heather (a co-worker from GK&H who just moved to LA) and Jesus for dinner at a wonderful Indian restaurant.
Jesus, Tom, Heather, Becky - downtown Santa Barbara

We enjoyed another wonderful dinner in Santa Barbara for Tom's 55th b-day.  Happy b-day, honey!  Love the discounts we now get for him!  :-)
spaghetti and meatballs for the birthday boy
Here are a few pictures from the coast as well as one picture we don't really like (you'll guess which one!)

we hope to camp here one day!  It's a county park - just $27/night!

Channel Islands National Park - We took a boat from Ventura out to Santa Cruz Island - one of the islands which is part of Channel Islands National Park.  Many people will go out to the island to camp for a few nights or even up to a week at a time (only 14 days/year permitted per person).  We've decided next time we will definitely spend a few nights on this island.  The hiking was incredible and the water and cliff views breathtaking.
hundreds of dolphins could be seen by our boat on the ride to the island

view from where we were docking

the interior

incredible cliff views

back at the harbor at Ventura 

Til next time...Happy Trails!

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Fond Farewell to Arizona

How can it be that 8 weeks have flown by and our time in AZ has ended?  What a wonderful time it was!  We spent a lot of time hiking and on the pickleball court the last few weeks.

Bell Trail to "The Crack" in the Verde Valley

This historic trail was, and still is, used to move cattle up and down the Magellan Rim.  It's a beautiful hike along the scenic canyon walls to a crystal clear creek and "The Crack" which is a very popular swimming hole (we ran into a newlywed couple from Philadelphia here!  They found "The Crack" on YouTube and had to check it out).

Becky on the rock where people jump from.  Not me!!

Kids with more guts than we had (not to mention the water was really cold!)

West Fork Trail - in Oak Creek Canyon just north of Sedona

What started out as a really cold and cloudy day (hard to believe in Arizona - but yes, we had on jackets and were still cold - around 45 degrees plus a wind) turned into a fabulous day with a gorgeous hike!  This trail we took ended at a slot canyon which could only be continued IN the water.  The trail went on for another 10 miles if you chose to walk and swim in the water.  With the chilliness we chose not to but will definitely go back again and take a shot at it.

Parsons Spring Trail near Cottonwood in Sycamore Canyon

Another fabulous hike to a very popular swimming hole.  This trail descended steeply into the canyon and then continued for 4 miles into the depths of the surrounding walls of the canyons.  The variety of the trail was incredible...first being on top with the view out through the canyon, then dropping down to the creek, then climbing on the walls hanging over the water, then up on the hillsides of the canyon and back down to the creek.  Every turn had an incredible view.

Humphrey's Peak - The Highest Point in AZ - 12, 633ft!!!

We bagged another peak!  Ok, so this one was slightly more difficult than Florida's highest point!  :-)  What an incredible climb and amazing views of everything around it...The Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, Flagstaff, Sedona and much more.  It's a 9 mile round-trip hike starting at approx. 9,300 feet up to the top.  The first section is among the tall aspens with switchbacks winding our way up the mountain to the saddle.  This is where we get our first view of the Painted Desert and the surrounding areas.  Then we spend the rest of the hike on the rocks and open face of the mountain over 3 false summits to the very top!  We had quite a bit of wind on the way up but it turned out to be spectacular weather on the summit with a light breeze, warm sun and a temperature around 50 degrees.  We surely didn't need the wind jackets, ski hats and gloves we brought along in anticipation of the bad weather you can encounter on top.  We heard it was an unusual occurrence.  We have been blessed with many great weather days on the summits of several mountains!

Yes, that's snow!

our first view of the Painted Desert

The summit - highest point in AZ - Humphrey's Peak - 12,633ft

views from the top - Painted Desert

natural trail markers - the summit is behind me...on our way down

a look back after the long hike - doesn't look like much, does it?  :-)


This little hippy town (once a mining town) is a happening place with lots of great little restaurants, wineries and the famous Haunted Burger.  We were fortunate to get the best seat in the house for our burger dinner (veggie burger for me of course!).

Tom's new job!

our table side view from The Haunted Burger

Dry Creek Trail in Secret Canyon - Sedona

Our last hike in AZ we enjoyed with our pickleball (and now hiking) friends Tony & Marilyn.  After we survived the VERY bumpy (thankfully only 4 mile) off-road drive to the trailhead we were sure glad we made the trek.  We ended up in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful canyon walls, pine trees and only the noises of the birds and wind in the trees.

Alligator Tree

relaxing after our hike

One last gathering with the Pickleball Crew.  This is such a great group of people and we are sad to say goodbye to them.  We will hook up with everyone again in Sept. in Oregon for a pickleball tournament!  Can't wait!  We enjoyed happy hour at Sue & Jack's house then dinner at Concho's and of course we couldn't end the evening without a stop at Dairy Queen for dessert!  :-)

Jack & Sue

The gang



the gang at dinner

and dessert!

We have now arrived in CA just west of Santa Barbara.  Phew!  What a crazy drive through LA traffic and then on the 16 miles of winding roads to our campground called Rancho Oso (Bear Ranch) tucked in the middle of the mountains.  We will be here for 3 weeks before heading north to the San Francisco area.  I'm sure we'll be enjoying lots of incredible hikes in this area, horseback riding and a music festival (father's day weekend - Live Oak Music Fesitval - supposed to be the best in Southern CA)!  We'll keep you posted!

Home sweet home at Rancho Oso Campground - Santa Barbara, CA

Til next time...Happy Trails!